HOUSTON -- His memories are a little fuzzy, given the baseball season was in its ninth month and he had just become a first-time father. But White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko has one vivid recollection of the team’s post-World Series celebration in 2005.
“Steve Perry was standing right there,” Konerko said Friday as he pointed three stalls from where he sat to the spot in which the longtime Journey front man stood after the White Sox closed out a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros in the 2005 Fall Classic.
Sometime during the team’s 11-1 postseason run, the team adopted Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ as its theme song and Perry came along for the ride. Aside from Perry’s presence, and the pure exhaustion of an additional 12 games on the schedule, Konerko said he doesn’t recall much other than the Series’ big moments as the White Sox make their first official return to Minute Maid Park since their World Series victory.
The teams played a pair of exhibition games here before the 2012 season and the White Sox and Astros have met nine times in the regular season since, but all those contests were in Chicago.
“You can look around, the same clubhouse, and remember moments you had after the game. But it all happened so fast,” Konerko said. “I don’t remember too much about the games. … I just remember getting back to the hotel and they had a party going on. I just remember most of the guys being so tired, just going to bed around 3 or 4 in the morning. It was nice to win, but it was also nice that the season was over. We had been grinding for a long time. It was a great feeling.”
White Sox assistant hitting coach Harold Baines, who was manager Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach at the time, is similar in that he doesn’t remember much. What stands out most to Baines is how the White Sox had timely hitting throughout the Series with Konerko’s grand slam and Scott Podsednik’s game-winning homer in Game 2, Geoff Blum’s Game 3 heroics and Jermaine Dye’s eighth-inning RBI single in Game 4.
“It was a blur,” Baines said. “It was a pitching duel, really. Each side didn’t hit that well. There was timely hitting, but there wasn’t a bunch of runs scored. That’s the biggest thing I remember. Our pitching staff was outstanding. … Not to say it was a great series, because it was. It could have went either way. We were just fortunate to have come out on top.”
Pitching coach Don Cooper remembers the relief Freddy Garcia felt after he led the White Sox to a 1-0 victory in Game 4 with seven scoreless innings. Garcia had done some talking prior to Game 3 that he had to backup.
“On the way to way to Game 3, Freddie told everyone if we won today we would be champions because he was not going to be beat,” Cooper said. “Then he won and after the game he said ‘I had to win, I talked s***. I had to back it up.’ ”
As if Konerko wasn’t already on an emotional roller coaster, his wife Jennifer arrived at the field during the clincher after their son, who had complications, was finally released from the hospital a week later.
With his wife on hand and Perry a few feet away, Konerko was on sensory overload.
“It was definitely a surreal thing,” Konerko said. “You see celebrations and World Series things growing up. Then you are in the middle of one. You don’t know what to make of it because you won the whole thing. It was definitely cool and it’s still the highlight of my career, which is pretty cool.”